Last night, the National Retail Federation held its third annual Gala in New York City. While the event's purpose is to recognized and honor individuals who are impacting the retail industry today, Kobe Bryant highlighted the event in a surprise appearance to present Nike CEO Mark Parker with The Visionary Award.
Bryant, a long-time Nike signature athlete, talked about the Nike CEO's impact on him personally, calling Parker one of his muses and someone he could turn to all the time for advice. When Bryant was beginning to plan his post-retirement life, he said Parker gave him a 944-page book on own his muse, Abraham Lincoln.
"I would think that after all these years working at Nike, spending time with athletes, that he would know that the last thing an athlete wants to do is read a 944-page book in a 10-point font," said Bryant. "But when I read it, I immediately saw the connectivity between the sixteenth President’s and Mark’s leadership style. A quiet, empathetic leader who bands together people with different points of view to build a stronger team, because maybe, just maybe, an off the wall idea can change the game. You just need to be willing to listen. So for every Mark Parker in the world, there is an Abraham Lincoln. For every Kobe Bryant, there is a Mark Parker."
Upon accepting the award, Parker took some time to honor Kobe as well. "I’ve worked with Kobe for many years, and Kobe’s the best proof you can imagine that athletes are an endless source of inspiration for Nike," said Parker. "Kobe has challenged himself every day as one of the best player ever to play the game and in the process he’s challenged Nike at the same time, and that has made us both better."
While Bryant retired from the league less than a year ago, his journey as a leader in footwear continues with the Nike Kobe A.D. With such a strong legacy, Bryant will surely be a muse for those in sneakers and sports to come after him.